Navy Pier, Chicago’s iconic lakefront destination, invites other local nonprofit organizations to apply for its popular Community Rides program starting today. Offered annually in commemoration of the Pier’s anniversary in July, the program awards up to 100 local nonprofit organizations the opportunity to ride the Centennial Wheel, an iconic part of the Chicago skyline and a treasured piece of the city’s cultural history. Soaring to heights of nearly 200 feet, the Wheel offers guests year-round, unparalleled, 360-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Pier is accepting applications from now through Friday, June 28, with an announcement of recipients on Monday, July 15 to coincide with the Pier’s 103rd birthday.


Applicants must be Chicagoland-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits in good standing, and must serve a community primarily located in Cook, Dekalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Kenosha (WI), Lake, Lake (IN), McHenry, Porter (IN) and/or Will counties. Past recipients are welcome to reapply. Awarded nonprofits will be issued complimentary Centennial Wheel tickets following the announcement on July 15. These will be valid on Mondays and Tuesdays from August through November, 2019 and March through May, 2020. Interested organizations are encouraged to apply online by close of business on June 28.


Now in its fourth year, the annual Community Rides program continues to grow in popularity and esteem throughout the nonprofit community. In past three years, Navy Pier has given out no fewer than 25,000 free tickets to ride on the Centennial Wheel. More than 160 organizations from throughout the Chicagoland area applied for tickets in 2018.


Mara O’Brien, executive director of past recipient, SitStayRead, shared how the program afforded her students the rare opportunity to venture out of their school and neighborhood and allowed them to see and appreciate their city from a unique perspective while riding the Centennial Wheel. Girls in the Game’s Teen Programs Manager Elizabeth White added, “The experience provided the opportunity for girls from different backgrounds to come together as a team and have fun, while proving to our participants that they are part of a larger community and family across Chicago.”


The Community Rides program exemplifies Navy Pier’s unwavering commitment to its mission and values, as the organization strives to establish and nurture meaningful partnerships with other nonprofits, offer unique opportunities and experiences to underserved communities and remain an accessible place for all.


In 2019, Navy Pier continues to usher in its second century with ongoing Pier-wide redevelopment efforts—including a 220-room Hilton hotel with rooftop bar, Offshore (now open), new Chicago-based dining and retail options, plans for a future marina, and more—in addition to free, year-round arts and cultural programming designed to inspire, educate and connect communities across the city and globe. For more information, please visit